Photo: Susan (left) and Stephanie Gefroh. Source: Huffington Post.
In April 2017, Stephanie got engaged to Bryan Fish. At first, their wedding was expected to take place a year after, where everything would be in place for her to have the wedding of her dreams, taking every detail into account to have something that everyone would remember. But, their plans changed, and Brian and Stephanie got married three weeks after their engagement instead.
What was the main reason behind this change in plans? Well, Stephanie's mother, Susan Gefroh, was diagnosed with Alzheimer's in 2011. The symptoms have progressed so much in the past 7 years that Susan has some difficulty even going on short trips around her town in North Dakota.
With this in mind, Stephanie’s sister, Amber, told her that she was not sure if their mother would be able to go to the place where she was planning to have the wedding initially (which is 3 and a half hours by car from their house in Devils Lake), she suggested changing their wedding venue from Detroit Lakes in Minnesota to one in North Dakota. Even though their original spot was a favorite in Minnesota, Stephanie could not have a wedding where her mother couldn't attend. Both her and her fiancé, Brian, decided to change it.
Stephanie, 27 years old, admits that she was not able to imagine a wedding without any of her relatives, especially her mother. So, when her sister suggested the change in venue, she didn't even think twice about making it closer.
Having support from Brian and her family
Once Stephanie got off the phone with her sister, Amber, she decided to make the changes needed in order to ensure her mom was able to attend what may be the most special day of her life. So, she talked to Bryan and he completely understood her.
But, time was of the essence, and everyone knows that a big wedding takes a majority of it. Taking this into account, he suggested doing a small ceremony for Stephanie's mother and a larger one in 2018 for all of their friends and family.
As they were already going to visit her mother three weeks from that day, Stephanie settled on having everything ready by the time they would arrive. This was just in 25 days.
Shocking on all angles, the one who was most shock was her sister Amber. Planning a wedding in 25 days seemed like a daunting challenge, but everyone was onboard with pulling it off.
The planning turned out to be easier than expected
Stephanie was surprised at how easy the planning of her wedding turned out to be, and she is still amazed that it all came together as expected so fast. In the end, the wedding venue selected for the ceremony was her mother’s backyard.
Although, planning the wedding was quite easy thanks to Stephanie’s attitude, knowing that she cannot be as picky as she would have if she had had more time to plan wedding. But she also needed the help of her sister, her brother-in-law, some aunts and both grandmothers in order to have everything in order for May 27th.
Stephanie highlights the work carried out by Issac (Amber’s husband) and Amber who did a lot of yard work in order to have the backyard prepared for the ceremony. Looking to surprise Stephanie, they created an aisle lined with hanging flower pots to walk down after doing her entrance. They were also able to find the chairs needed from the local Catholic elementary school of Devils Lake, who donated all the chairs while Isaac’s dad was able to get the tables needed to be donated from the local hospital.
Food in the wedding was a variety of family recipes since many family members such as their aunts, grandmothers, cousins and even some friends offered to make food. They also helped with the decorations and ordered their cake. Stephanie mentioned that the floral decorations were beautiful, and they were all made by her extremely talented friend called Rachel.
The cherry on top was the ceremony performer, who turned out to be the man who introduced Bryan and Stephanie back in February 2015.
However, before the ceremony started, Stephanie was eager to see how her mom would react.
A warm surprise for Stephanie’s mother
Amber walked Susan inside the house and told her that Stephanie was getting married. Stephanie remembers that Susan looked at her with an expressionless face and then walked away, not being able to understand what was happening at the moment. Some days before the wedding, Susan did not even want to go outside, so she was not that enthusiastic about going to the backyard either.
Fortunately, Bryan and one of the caregivers were able to talk to her and persuade her to go outside. In order to prevent her from panicking when she would see over 100 people who attended the ceremoney, they walked her around and brought her to the front so she could sit there throughout the entire ceremony.
At the end, Stephanie said that she was very happy to see her mother laugh while watching her aunt make funny noises and crawl on the ground. She said that seeing how happy she was at the moment was worth all the effort of planning the wedding in just 3 weeks.
After the wedding
Sadly, everything changed after the wedding. Only one week after the ceremony Susan pushed her caregiver, causing them both to fall. Afterward, her mother received 4 staples in her head. Subsequently, nurses suggested to Amber that it was time to take her mom into a memory care unit, and she was placed there almost immediately.
Bryan and Stephanie are currently planning the second ceremony that will take place this year in 2018, but they have also focused their efforts on another project.
Currently, both Bryan and Stephanie on working on a Facebook page to support the children of parents who are suffering from early on-set Alzheimer's disease.
For more information, check out Young Advocates: Children of Young Onset Alzheimer's Disease on Facebook.